Cobbling together events between major championships in the condensed schedule world of 2019 is a difficult task. The period of time between the Masters and PGA Championship was good but not great; however, this week's Memorial Tournament represents maybe the best tune-up for the next major we'll see all season long. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are joined by nearly all the young stars in the game in a pre-Pebble Beach appetizer at Jack Nicklaus' place at Muirfield Village.
As for how good this event is each year? Well, I'll leave that to Zac Blair to break down in this tweet. The field will be loaded in Dublin, Ohio, and I for one am ready and raring to go. With this in our back pockets, let's take a look at this week's contest.
I think @MemorialGolf is the best non major of the year ... Muirfield is always mint ... tons of cool holes including some tough 3s awesome short 4s & risk/reward 5s ... great shots get rewarded & bad shots get ejected ... the food is top notch & the shakes might be the 🐐 pic.twitter.com/T0pDxP3MhJ— Zac Blair (@z_blair) May 28, 2019
What: the Memorial Tournament | When: May 30 - June 2
Where: Muirfield Village -- Dublin, Ohio
Ranking the field (odds)
- Rory McIlroy (10-1): In a tournament sans Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, McIlroy is the only individual to turn as the favorite. Even more so at a high-profile PGA Tour event like this one which plays perfectly to his strengths.
- Justin Rose (16-1): T6 here last season and solo second in 2015.
- Tony Finau (20-1): Two top-five finishes in his last four events, and he finished T13 here last year. He's also No. 3 at this course in strokes gained in the last decade.
- Matt Kuchar (18-1): The all-time leader in strokes gained at Muirfield Village. His record here is preposterously good.
- Tiger Woods (12-1): He had one of the worst putting performances of his career here last year and still finished in the top 25.
- Rickie Fowler (18-1): Nearly won here in 2017 when he finished three back of Jason Dufner. Needs a nice rebound after a bad Sunday at the PGA Championship and missed cut at Colonial.
- Patrick Cantlay (14-1): It's the perfect tournament for him to win. He's trending, has history here and is flying under the radar. Also: He's my pick (see below).
- Xander Schauffele (25-1): Has there been a more underrated star in the last 20 years than Schauffele?
- Bryson DeChambeau (30-1): Three straight missed cuts and doesn't have a top 10 since the Sony Open. On the other hand, he's top 25 in strokes gained from tee to green. Something isn't adding up.
- Justin Thomas (18-1): If he's healthy, sure, he's in my top four. But is he healthy? Hopefully, for his sake, he rebounds like Brooks Koepka did after missing the 2018 Masters with a wrist injury and wins three of the next five major championships. I need to see it first, though.
Field strength -- A: No Johnson or Koepka, but nearly everyone else is in attendance this week. This tournament has produced some odd winners over the years, though it's hard to imagine that happening again this week with this many stars playing the event.
Stat of the day:— Nosferatu (@VC606) May 28, 2019
What happened to some of the recent @MemorialGolf winners...
2015: D. Lingmerth from #71 world ranking then, to #560 now (no win since)
2016: W. McGirt from #44 then to #461 now (no win since)
2017: J. Dufner from #27 then, to #197 now (no win since) #OWGR
Three things to know
1. The Jack-Tiger connection: Never has the Woods-Nicklaus storyline been hotter than it is right now after Woods claimed his 15th major championship in April. Here's what Nicklaus said about it earlier this week.
"He came back, he worked hard to get himself back in shape to be able to play," said Nicklaus. "He had to figure out what he had between the five inches between his ears. He had to get that solved to believe that he could do what he did.
"He had won The Tour Championship the year before. But that's still only 30 players. He's not beating a huge field. Played very well to win that. But still not the Masters or the U.S. Open. And he just had to believe it. He did a very nice job of that. I was very proud of him. Very happy for him. And he just played the way a champion should play."
It would be pretty great if Woods was able to win again this week at Nickalus' own event, where he's accomplished this feat five times before.
2. Kuchar delivers? Matt Kuchar leads the FedEx Cup and is having one of the best seasons of his career with eight top-12 finishes and two wins. He can nearly lock up No. 1 status going into the FedEx Cup Playoffs in two months with a victory this week at a place where he's finished outside the top 15 just one time since 2010.
3. Amateur status: I have amateur golf on my brain after downloading the NCAAs over the past few days, and this event is rife with former (and current!) am stars. Norman Xiong, Will Grimmer, Justin Suh and Jovan Rebula will all tee it up this week at Muirfield Village.
More than his score this week, I'll be watching to see how mentally engaged Woods is. Climbing Mt. Augusta is the most arduous mental task in the game, and there's a world in which Woods coasts mentally for the rest of 2019. Do I necessarily think that's going to happen? No, but the next few events will be telling.
- 2018: Bryson DeChambeau
- 2017: Jason Dufner
- 2016: William McGirt
- 2015: David Lingmerth
- 2014: Hideki Matsuyama
Winner: Patrick Cantlay (14-1) -- Three straight top 10s (including at two majors), and he finished solo fourth in 2018. He's quietly been one of the five best players in golf over the last two months.
Top 10: Rory McIlroy (10-1) -- He has nine top 10s in 10 stroke play events, and finished T8 here last season. It's kind of surprising that he's as high as 10-1. I would have guessed more like 8-1.
Sleeper: Rory Sabbatini (60-1) -- The other Rory has four straight top 20s (three of them top 10s), and is one of the 10 best golfers at this course in the last decade.